Just in case you were wondering, here's a brief guide to how we make medium dry and sweet cider.
This French word describes the importance of land, weather conditions, sunshine and so on. It is no coincidence that the Teme Valley was an important fruit growing region with its south facing, fertile slopes. There are fewer orchards these days in the region around Tenbury Wells, but Geoff Thompson’s orchards at nearby Little Lambswick are very well kept and produce high quality fruit. Last winter he planted more orchards in anticipation of Oldfields Orchard ciders increasing in popularity!
An apple a day…
You can use any sort of apple to make cider, but that doesn’t necessarily make it drinkable! We successfully made a cider with Discovery eating apples, but for our flagship medium sweet and medium dry ciders we used bittersweet cider apples chosen by Geoff. Bittersweet cider apples work because they have just the right amount of sugar for fermentation and the right amount of tannin plus relatively low acidity. We use Dabinett, Harry Masters Jersey and Yarlington Mill.
Left to rot apples will quickly start to ferment on their own but you wouldn’t want to drink the result! In October and November our apples were collected by machine and by hand, then brought back to the newly built Oldfields Pressings Hall where they were washed and sorted; leaves, twigs, sticks and rotten apples are all removed.
The apples were then milled, broken up by machine so they form a mush, and then the juice is squeezed out of them and run into stainless steel tanks. Cider can be left to ferment with wild yeasts but we used cultured yeast. Our aim was to preserve apple flavours and not to integrate the characteristics of the farm and land around into the drink and to stay in control over the process so flavours are not left to chance.
During fermentation Paul, from Hobsons Brewery, made regular scientific checks to make sure everything went as it should and that the cider is healthy, has enough nutrients and the right amount of alcohol.
We left it to ferment until March at which point the team from Hobsons got together with Geoff and his family to test various blends to come up with our final ‘recipe’ which would decide sweetness or dryness, desired alcoholic content and flavour. The raw cider from each tank was then blended with water, our own apple juice, sugar and SO2 to inhibit wild yeasts and unwanted organisms to preserve freshness. At the bottling plant it was also sterile cold filtered and then carbonated to add a gentle sparkle.
So that’s basically that. Very simple really. Now all we are waiting for is the next apple harvest!